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A personal note

I was in New Orleans this morning when I received word that my sister, Mary Jane Esser, had died after a long and courageous struggle with breast cancer. She was a mother of five children and grandmother of four, and was a foster parent for infants in need. She was 60 years old.

I was with my sister before departing for New Orleans. I had planned to return to her bedside after my trip, but she slipped away this morning. While I very badly wanted to celebrate Mardi Gras with the people of New Orleans and broadcast live from there over the next two nights, it is imperative now that I be with my family during this time. Campbell Brown has graciously agreed to fill in for me, and I'm so very grateful for that.

I'm also very grateful for the years I had with my sister, and for the expressions of condolence I have already received from my NBC family. I know so many of our viewers have many similar experiences -- and I join millions in hoping for a cure in our lifetime.